Travis Hair talks about the Coyotes, the fans, and snakes

YotesFans.jpgTravis Hair, the managing editor of Five For Howling, has lived
through the frustration of being a Phoenix Coyotes fan. He’s been a
devout fan through it all, and I know just how much he suffered through
all the troubles last summer. He seemingly took it personally, as his
team was fought over in court and nearly every pundit wrote how the team
should ultimately be moved.

Amid all this uncertainty was a
team that was in desperate need of
guidance, and a fan base that felt abandoned. The team had been mediocre
for too long in an environment where hockey can certainly struggle, and
when the issues surrounding the ownership of the franchise erupted the
fans were left out in the cold.

Now, after the first playoff
hockey game in Arizona since 2002, everything has turned completely
around. The Coyotes are the feel good story of the season, the fans are
back in rabid fashion and the Throw The Snake campaign has put Travis
and Five For Howling on the map. As the Coyotes get more and more
attention, so has Travis and his great blog.

Pro Hockey Talk was
able to chat with Travis about this past season, the great hockey game
in Glendale last night, and his experiences since become famous in the
hockey world.

As the hockey world embraces the Coyotes, Travis
says he’s not that surprised.

“Who doesn’t root for the CInderella
or the underdog?”  Those are the best of
sports stories,” Travis tells Pro Hockey Talk. “Who doesn’t hate the
Wings that isn’t a WIngs fan?”

“The
bigger surprise is the support from teams in the playoffs. Hawks fans,
Sharks
fans, Preds too. They’re cheering for us too.”

The Coyotes won a
big game against the Red Wings last night, as raucous fans turned a
hockey arena in Arizona into one of the most electrifying atmospheres in
all of hockey. Travis says that atmosphere was building outside the
arena before the game ever started.

“There were wranglers with white
coyotes on harnesses
walking around out front. Just cool.
There were tons of painted up fans, fans wearing capes, fans cheering
outside
before they ever got in. People were mostly in their seats early because
they
didn’t want to miss a moment.”

It was certainly a bit unexpected,
even with the hype the team had started to get leading into the
playoffs. Travis, however, says that this has been building for most of
the season. As far as the team goes, he says he knew they might be onto
something special well before then.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew
it was going to be this
special,” he says. “But the first clue I had was early in the year when
we went to
Pittsburgh and shutout the Penguins. It’s just one game, but anytime you
can do
something like that to the defending champs it gives you confidence in
your
team.”

What’s been truly special to witness is how a simple joke
on Twitter turned into an all-out campaign for solidarity among Coyotes
fans. The Throw The Snake movement has been embraced all around hockey,
and has put Travis and his blog on the map.

Travis says that
while there were “10 to 12” snakes that ended up on the ice, the arena
officials didn’t seem all that concerned with stopping it.

“One of
my friends was wearing a “Throw the snake” shirt [availiable on Five
for
howling] and the security people were like ‘What’s that mean?’ He had to
explain
it.

“Heck, some people got some octopi into the arena.”

As
the Throw The Snake movement gained traction, Travis has been sought out
by the media to provide his thoughts on the Coyotes, the fans and
hockey. He’s talked to Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog, appeared on local
radio, and had his blog mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada as well as
on iDesk on the CBC.

It’s some surprising instant fame for Travis, who considers
himself just a simple blogger. It’s all been a bit unexpected.

“Though
I run a blog on one of the biggest and well run networks around, I’m
just
a blogger.”

“I don’t even know where to
go from here. I’m just a hockey fan and had this random Throw The Snake
and the
team take off. I’m excicited about where this goes and also just stunned
by the
sudden attention.”

If there’s one blogger and one website that
deserve the attention, it’s Travis and Five For Howling. He’s toiled
through some tough times and now it’s paying off as his site sky
rockets.

The team has been pushing their “Whiteout 2010” campaign,
and Five For Howling has followed suit. It’s something that has
certainly worked for this team and these fans.

“Everyone was cheering, booing, oohing, Everyone
was high-fiving everyone. It was just
amazing.”
“Talk about how we shouldn’t do the whiteout if you
want,
but it was electric.”

You can follow Travis on Twitter at twitter.com/TravisHair.

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    Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

    CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

    “He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

    Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

    Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

    So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

    Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

    ‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

    Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

    He was asked if he was playing.

    “Yep.”

    So, no problems?

    “Nope.”

    And that was that.

    No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

    “Very confident,” said Sullivan.

    Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

    Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

    WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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    Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

    Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

    Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

    Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

    OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

    Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

    At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

    After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

    He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.